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Illuminating Age

“Am I old yet?”

Jeanette Strasser Pfaff ’60 ponders that question and more as a newsletter columnist for the Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill, N.C. Her wry glance falls on the many aspects of getting older and results in musings that are sometimes funny, sometimes wistful, and often illuminating.

“My 60th college reunion is not far in the future,” Pfaff notes in one column, featured below. “The month I finished my freshman year, the Class of 1897 celebrated its 60th Reunion. They were old.”

Pfaff says that these writings have helped her find her voice—and her place—in a community that reminds her a lot of Swarthmore. 

“When you first get to a retirement community, you think you’re fitting into something that is fixed, and that’s the way you feel when you’re a freshman, too,” she says. “And then, gradually, you realize that it’s always changing—and that you’re a part of the change.”

Am I Old Yet?

How do I answer this question? I could assign an arbitrary date: I became old when I turned 77. I could assess my aches and pains: on a scale of 1 to 10, I feel 8; I must be old. I could just look in the mirror and notice that the wrinkle barometer has reached “old”.  Or … I could ponder the following:

1) My grandchildren dress up for Halloween in what I wore to class in high school (think poodle skirt).

2) I realize that I will never have to buy another ironing board cover. This one will last me.

3) The trendy Danish Modern furniture of my youth shows up in antique shops … it’s “mid-century.”

4) My children will soon be old enough to sign up for Carol Woods.

5) I don’t always ”get” the humor in the daily comics or the cartoons in the New Yorker.

6) What I consider to be pop music is what’s played on the oldie-goldie stations.

7) I don’t fantasize about the future. My fantasies revise the past.

8) I could have joined AARP a quarter century ago.

9) Land line phones are quaint. I remember telephone party lines and having to ask the operator to dial long distance.

10) The celebrated concert pianist who just walked on to the stage appears to be about the age of my eldest grandchild.

11) The fabric designs that were popular in my young adulthood are now described as “retro.”

12) My 60th college reunion is not far in the future. The month I finished my freshman year, the Class of 1897 celebrated its 60th reunion. They were old.

So, am I old? Let’s just say that I’m “mid-century.”